In situ 

02. ON THE TRANSPARENCY OF SPEED IN THE PASSAGE OF TIME by Jean-Michel Ribettes, 2000 – Solo Show, THE HERZYLIA MUSEUM, 2000 – English

  • The spacing of time
  • The virtual double of the real
  • The raw flesh of the digital
  • The universal dynamism of the gaze
  • The moving ma of the city

  • No matter how beauteous the monstrance,
    it is only when you close your eyes
    that you feel God passing.
    Marcel Proust, Jean Santeuil.


    In the beginning there’s perception. Sensation experienced. Which helps in the quest for the imperceptible in what lies beyond the gaze. Sometimes sensation is projected on the other side of appearances. And perception falls directly on what it is impossible to perceive. Precisely where the natural limit of representation occurs. This thing that is impossible to perceive is nevertheless what Kimiko Yoshida’s art chooses as its primordial object. The imperceptible rendered visible is turned inside out and re-incorporates Time’s grand strategy. The passage of Time, elapsed in the movement of space, is suddenly there, present in these photographs which can only be produced by the new media–new mediators, between the invisible and the visible, new technological mediation between the digitized extension of space and the digitized elapsing of time.

    The pictures taken by this young artist from Tokyo directly present what eludes the human eye in the dialectic of Time. We know that representation has, above all and imprescriptibly, been given over to an inhuman meaning, ever since it chose to depict the face of an invisible God, which was to remain so. It has to be said that the sole object of art involves this thing that is impossible to perceive, which comes across as something irrepresentable. This negativity that informs all representation is what defines Kimiko Yoshida’s art, and determines its most crucial meanings.

    The artist shows her photographs in the form of an installation: Tokyo, Jerusalem, Venice, Quick!. Her works are, above all else, perceptible signs revealing the distortion created by the digital calculation that pixelizes the image at the speed of light. The software naturally produces a kind of slight and continuous alteration where the effects of acceleration in the passage of Time can be felt. The young photographer knows only too well that the only thing that measures speed in a sovereign way is the supreme immanence of Time. Her pictures thus express the immanent temporal quality of digital acquisition. They affirm the temporal fluidity of videographic motion. They attest to the instantaneous quality of computer calculation in real time. They show the spacing of Time brought on by the dynamics of digital compression. They display the discontinuity engendered by the capture of videograms at 1/25th of a second (it’s analogue film that has 24 photograms/second).

    These perceptible image- and sign-blurring and image- and sign-altering effects merely make the effects of speed perceptible in the image structure, like the effects of temporality in language structure. Through her art, the young photographer formally experiments with the function of the changeability of the sign singled out by Ferdinand de Saussure (Cours de linguistique générale, chap.II, §2): « Time, which lends language its continuity, has another effect, which appears to contradict the first one: the effect of more or less rapidly altering linguistic signs and, in a certain sense, we can talk at once of the changelessness and the changeability of the sign. In the final analysis, the two are one: the sign is in the process of altering because it is continuous. What predominates in any alteration is the persistence of ancient matter; infidelity to the past is just relative. This is why the principle of alteration is based on the principle of continuity. »


    Over and above perception, Kimiko Yoshida’s art reveals the perceptible effects of technological Time, which shows that the eye alone cannot perceive. Computer media have transformed our relationship to the imperceptible in a no less radical way than the microscope and the telescope did in their day. In the way she captures video images, the artist thus shows what her own eye hasn’t been able to grasp during the shot taken while passing through the City, at speed. Time, here, is less the time of what is seen that of what is experienced, in the movement of displacement, at the whim of city traffic, by boat or aeroplane, on foot, by bus or by car.

    Her images can only be isolated on the computer screen and what they show is only visible when the photographer views the sequence of videograms so as to select the photo she will print. Far from being the pure videographic recording of movement, her photographs are above all the re-creation of the real based on its virtual double. Filming, flat out, the speed of the City, the camera cuts out a slice of the real, calculates it and then digitizes it. Then the printer (laser or ink-jet), in the form of a « photographic » print, singles out a moment of this real, a split-second snapshot, a fixed image that bears the various stigmata of the digitization process.

    The artist re-creates a perceptible world based on the virtual world, in other words, based on digitized images chosen for their specifically digital aesthetic: visibility of the resolution lines and the signs of the video film reeling by, which are the sign of the image production process, and call to mind the scanning lines of analogue television. The absence of parameter management giving the software over to the arbitrariness of chance upsets the balance of the colours and weakens the optical signals: pink skies, bluish earth, green nights.


    Electronic information ends in a cliché that doesn’t exist outside the artist’s work, and cannot exist, either, in a silver photo. Beyond what the eye can see, the photo captured on the digitized memory literally pushes back the threshold of the visible by making apparent the image that disappeared in the speed of the video movement. Video makes a cut in reality, filming the movement of its own speed which splits the City up into sequence shots. Beyond the maximum threshold where the visible remains perceptible, the artist singles out digital files, draws unnoticed resources of the real from the moving image, and links these discoveries together in polyptychs which increase the simultaneous viewpoints.

    Far from using image-processing software to make–as is customary–simulations and special effects, collages and photomontages, the artist thus lets the computer work on its own and thus lays bare–without rectifying them– the features of the image informed/deformed by digitization and digital printing, thereby creating a second reality, virtual and artificial. It’s the stigmata of pixelization which enable the artist to assert that her digital images, which she usually doesn’t « smooth out », show the « raw flesh of the digital process », to borrow her own words, in contrast with the « living skin of silver prints », which, incidentally, represent another crucial share of her art.

    So her video-inspired photographs do not talk about a visualized real, but a virtualized one. Their aesthetic is not that of the retinal world seen through an analogical representation « cooked » with silver salt, but an aesthetic of the technological world presented in the « rawness » of the digital process.


    It was on her first trip to Jerusalem and Venice that Kimiko Yoshida filmed both cities. In the third series on view here, she also shows the aesthetics of Tokyo, the city where she was born. In each series, the simultaneous series of shots edited like a single sequence forms a kind of instant still film. Each City is caught by the artist in a continuum of reality: Time unfurls, here and now, in an unfolded space, as if the sensory time factor were suddenly spaced out in a photographic snapshot synthesizing space and time in a novel kind of simultaneity. Photography here turns its back on its basic rules (focus and definition, composition and depth of field, exposure and framing), and re-invents its restrictions by inventing its own arbitrariness–and, by renovating its technical codes, it renews its own meanings and lays bare the very presuppositions of the pixelization that calculates the image by working it in the form of millions of tiny squares.
    Ove and above the speed of execution of the technological image, the flash of media communication and the acceleration of digitization, Kimiko Yoshida’s installations express the speed of sensation, the dynamic of retinal perception, the reality of the speed of the journey, of urban motion and the rapidity of contemporary movement. But by laying bare the « raw flesh of the digital », she also highlights the capacity of mental intuition to synthesize the experiences of perception and memory in the simultaneity and cohesion of experienced sensation.

    As if she were summoning a kind of universal dynamism of the gaze and perception, the young photographer formulates an art which, as the Manifesto of Futurist Painters put it, would « simply be dynamic sensation itself (rendered everlasting). [...] In order to get the onlooker to be at the centre of the image, the image must be the synthesis of what is remembered and what is seen ». We must above all recognize that, in the coherent simultaneity of her polyptychs, the artist puts forward a truly Cubist viewpoint, which had to be unknown to the Futurists. (The apology for speed made by the Italian avant-garde was unable to encompass Cubist space, because the Futurist aesthetic only managed to borrow from the pictorial divisionism of the 19th century and the division of movement achieved by Muybridge and Marey).

    This 30-foot pan is above all the perceptible sign whereby the distortion created by the digital calculation digitizing the image at the speed of light is displayed. Kimiko Yoshida’s work talks about the immanent time factor of digital acquisition. It shows

    In the photos taken by Kimiko Yoshida of these Cities, caught in mid flight in their atmospheric vibration, the air is blurred like a gauze veil dividing the depth of the light. Her photos of Tokyo single out the movement of freeways, which cloud the whole design of the urban structure, punctuate the night with neon figures and displace on the glass façades the quivering reflection of the buildings. Her photos of Venice record the ubiquitous lapping of waves, which jostle the vaporettos, swell the red velvets of the churches, and drive the stone angels beyond the clouds. Her photos of Jerusalem catch skies, in their immaterial shifts, pushed by the desert wind, which makes the air pulsate with the heat of light, makes the flags flutter above timeless monuments, and lends the inscriptions that can be read on the city walls the coded meaning of a promise of eternity.


    Like the stream-of-consciousness in Joyce’s Ulysses, the various series of images created by Kimiko Yoshida form a river of moving sensations, where life moves about like the air in the sky.

    It is undoubtedly the sequencing of the series of images that lends Kimiko Yoshida’s installation its structure, the same way that the unfolding of the inner monologue (the famous above-mentioned « stream-of-consciousness ») structures Joyce’s work. As with James Joyce, it is undeniably the City, with Kimiko Yoshida, that forms the component feature of the oeuvre, precisely where space and Time assume a complete subjectivity–we know that this space-time notion is quintessential to Japanese aesthetics, which has developed a concept therefrom: the ma. In James Joyce’s novel, it’s the uninterrupted unfolding of a character’s thoughts which replaces the usual narrative form; in Kimiko Yoshida’s polyptychs, it is the on-going unfolding of the viewpoints over the City that replaces the usual form of photographic framing. In the novel, it’s the continuity/discontinuity relationship of the characters which constructs the living space-time of the City; in these photos, it’s the continuity/discontinuity of the images and the deconstructive assemblage/montage of the installation that constructs the space-time of the city walkabout, revealing the moving ma of the City. As in the novel where the uninterrupted sequence of sentences ushers in the porousness of the ideas, the continuous procession of the pixels ushers in the permeability of the outlines and colours.

    So the work of the Japanese photographer injects the flow of urban trajectories into the circulation of the digital flow. The fact is that it’s these respective flows which are at once present and represented in the typical blur of the image. The characteristic blur of her photographs helps us to discern and define the quiddity (the essence and nature) of speed, which at the same time is related to physical movement and electronic digitization: by combining with the speed of digital calculus, the speed of movement filmed produces an obvious liquidity of the image, homothetic liquidity of the fluidity of the binary calculation circulating on a liquid crystal screen.

    Kimiko Yoshida’s art isn’t merely produced by technological speed, which becomes the objective and material ally of a contemporary aesthetics intentionally submitted to the pressures and circumstances of computer science. Her art also signifies speed, which becomes the actual subject of digital representation. In a perfectly homothetic way, her photographs combine speed determined by digital technology and speed signified by the subject represented–they give the gaze access to acceleration and metamorphosis, bedazzlement and energy, and the transfixion and transparency of speed.

    Translated from French by Simon Pleasance.